“I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies.
But unfortunately one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country’s 24-hour political pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems but its existence makes solving them that much harder. The press can hold its magnifying up to our problems bringing them into focus, illuminating issues heretofore unseen or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden, unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic.
If we amplify everything we hear nothing. There are terrorists and racists and Stalinists and theocrats but those are titles that must be earned. You must have the resume. Not being able to distinguish between real racists and Tea Partiers or real bigots and Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez is an insult, not only to those people but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate--just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe not more. The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we actually get sicker--and perhaps .
And yet, with that being said, I feel good—strangely, calmly good. Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a fun house mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim in the waist and maybe taller, but the kind where you have a giant forehead and an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin and one eyeball.
So, why would we work together? Why would you reach across the aisle to a pumpkin-assed forehead eyeball monster? If the picture of us were true, of course, our inability to solve problems would actually be quite sane and reasonable. Why would you work with Marxists actively subverting our Constitution or racists and homophobes who see no one’s humanity but their own? We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is—on the brink of catastrophe—torn by polarizing hate and how it’s a shame that we can’t work together to get things done, but the truth is we do. We work together to get things done every damn day!
The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV. But Americans don’t live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundations that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done. Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do it—impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make.
Look on the screen. This is where we are. This is who we are. These cars—that’s a schoolteacher who probably thinks his taxes are too high. He’s going to work. There’s another car—a woman with two small kids who can’t really think about anything else right now. There’s another car, swinging, I don’t even know if you can see it—the lady’s in the and she loves Oprah. There’s another car—an investment banker, gay, also likes Oprah. Another car’s a Latino carpenter. Another car a fundamentalist vacuum salesman. Atheist obstetrician. Mormon Jay-Z fan. But this is us. Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief and principles they hold dear—often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers.
And yet these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze one by one into a mile long 30 foot wide tunnel carved underneath a mighty river. Carved, by the way, by people who I’m sure had their differences. And they do it. Concession by conscession. You go. Then I’ll go. You go. Then I’ll go. You go then I’ll go. Oh my God, is that an NRA sticker on your car? Is that an Obama sticker on your car? Well, that’s okay—you go and then I’ll go.
And sure, at some point there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute, but that individual is rare and he is scorned and not hired as an analyst.
Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.
If you want to know why I’m here and want I want from you, I can only assure you this: you have already given it to me. Your presence was what I wanted.
Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder. To see you here today and the kind of people that you are has restored mine. Thank you."
September 17th I found a post on Facebook that suggested that The Daily Show was holding a Rally to Restore Sanity. Seconds later I saw announcement of a March to Keep Fear Alive. I thought both ideas were absolutely amazing, and I had a vague wish to go. For no good reason I crunched some numbers. It was definitely doable.
I pitched the idea to MB and she expressed enthusiasm to the idea. I thought Amtrak sounded like the best idea--a bit more expensive, but better for the environment, and we'd never traveled like that on trains. These trains would have beds and the rides would take just long enough that we wouldn't need to book a hotel or hostel.
But I waited too long to book it, the prices skyrocketed and the tickets vanished, so I quickly settled on Greyhound. It would be basically the same, except that we'd be sleeping on reclined seats instead of beds.
To get ready, I bought snacks and even some Hi-8 video tapes. I looked into getting a new battery for a camera I had and had gotten a battery sent over-night, just in the nick of time.
MB had an idea for our sign: Calm Blue Ocean, in reference to a soothing Simpsons mantra. When I heard this idea I thought of the Alfred Hitchcock film "Lifeboat," and quickly sketched a concept for MB's approval (a double-sided poster, the first side of which would have an angry quarreling bunch of survivors on a stormy sea-tossed boat with the words "What this boat needs...", the back side would have these same survivors looking in the same direction toward the sunlight of civil discourse "...a calm blue ocean" written above them). A thumbs up given, I changed the wording slightly, to "What this boat needs is a..." and "Calm Soothing Ocean," to avoid the partisan Blue State connotation, and worked on it over the next few days.
Friday, October 29th, we got home at the same time, did some last minute cleaning and packing and made sure we got to South Station at 9pm for a 10pm bus--what was supposed to be a 10pm bus.
It was good of us to be there at 9, or else we wouldn't have made the 11:30 bus for the New York Port Authority but, in that line, we overheard naive, spoiled, ignorant college kids, and didn't hear any kind of announcement from Greyhound regarding the situation. Tired, we briefly considered ending our adventure there. Mulling that thought, I examined the printed ticket for a guarantee of a refund. Fortunately, as stated above, the bus came at 11:30.
In New York, at the Port Authority, the problem was mostly the classist ticket-holder who demanded that she be seated first because she paid five dollars more. Were these the people that heard Jon Stewart's call for civility, for calm, for anger-management? Was it Jon Stewart that was naive, idealistic, to have such faith in the American people that we could come together despite differences? Was the very premise of a march or rally for the logical faulty? Were we sent on a journey simply because the TV told us to go? We decided to press on to Washington to find out.
I had been to Washington DC twice before: in the summer of 1993 and the summer of 1997. In the unbearably humid East Coast heat of summer two showers a day were common as my family and I explored the free museums and monuments in our nation's capital. MB had never been. I looked forward to showing her the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, and the White House. We both hoped to take in a museum or two, time allotting. I was curious to see the World War II Memorial as it was still new to me.
First though, we arrived at Union Station and walked through its beautiful corridors and the Mall toward the food court for a quick bite to eat. We then took a stroll around the Capitol Building and looked for a bathroom. The one we found was an underground building which led to the Library of Congress and the Capitol Building. So, we got a neat little taste of that Washington DC tradition: metal detectors and x-rays. The trip to the bathroom was worth it.
We found a spot on the Mall just behind a barrier on 4th Street, a block away from the stage. It sounds like a better view than it was, as a media truck was directly between us and the stage. Despite only seeing about 5% of the stage, we got excellent views of jumbotrons and the sound system was strong.
If you've seen the arc develop on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, you know what we watched leading up to the rally itself. If you've seen the rally on television you know what we saw. I participated in the Mythbusters' experiments and we laughed at the sketches and the war of the "train" songs. I geeked out with delight as "corbomite" was cited in teaching Stephen Colbert not to fear things because the TV told him to.
And then it ended with the magnificent, apolitical words pasted into the beginning of this post. The sea of people moved at a pace dictated by its vast size. Once we got to a hole in the crowd we decided to sit down and eat some crackers and drink some water. An hour-and-a-half after the rally ended we finally made our way westward down the Mall.
Taking in all of Washington's sites listed above except for the museums, we got hungry. Flipping through our Rough Guide, we found some Indian places in New Downtown, but when we got there, both places were quickly closing. I double-checked the hours listed in the book. I double-checked the hours on the doors. Both sources contradicted the hosts we saw. As we walked around we grew frustrated passing closed restaurant after closed restaurant.
We found a place called The Bombay Club, a very fancy looking Indian restaurant where no-one dressed like a couple of dirty, tired, hungry rally-goers. Despite this, the host was happy to take our reservations for 8:45. We walked outside confused and wondering if we could find something sooner. I flipped through the Rough Guide looking for restaurant phone numbers. If I could call one, then not only could I find out if they're open, I could let them know we're coming. Finally we settled on Cafe Asia. I said we'd be there in fifteen minutes. Racing to find our way after being lost, I didn't want us to be tardy when we'd promised a specific time.
We made it to a trendy looking trans-Asian restaurant with color-changing lights and unisex bathrooms. It was the sort of place that might seem as exclusive as The Bombay Club seemed to us. But as with the former, we were pleasantly surprised by the friendly, laid-back nature of both the staff and the patrons. It was affordable enough, that we splurged for appetizers and desserts as well as entrees and beverages. They filled up my soda with a frequency usually reserved for water glasses.
Our trip back was much smoother. We strolled back through the Mall, we saw the remains of the rally, and we saw Union Station's mall slowly close. We even managed to score buses much earlier than our printed tickets. The passengers were laid-back and reasonable. We saw the sun rise on the Massachusetts Turnpike just in time to come home, to see that it was safe, and to take a nap.